Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Man Who Measures Clouds

And here he is. A work by the Belgian artist-playwright-stage director-sculptor-choreographer-designer Jan Fabre.

When in France (am I boring you with this trip yet?) we were given the warmest of welcomes by the owners of the Galerie Guy Pieters in St Paul-de-Vence, Levin and Dorathee De Buck.

In fact, they treated us to champagne, and let us wander amongst some of the most amazing sculptures in bronze I've yet to come across.

For instance, this is a sculpture which pays homage to Fabre's late brother who was a "dreamer". Fabre says "It expresses the feeling of planning the impossible, which is actually what the artist does".

"The ornithologist Robert Stroud has strongly influenced me. In the 'Birdman of Alcatraz', when he is finally released from prison, Stroud states: 'I am going to measure the clouds', with the full understanding that its an impossible mission."

Fabre is impressive. I read up on him when I got back. Did you know amongst his many accomplishments, he once covered the Tivoli Castle in Mechelen in paper and then scribbled all over it in blue ball-point pen?

Enough...let me show you some of his bronzes. They are stunning and immaculate and certainly reflect the artist's fixation with things that no longer have life. In fact I think Fabre is obsessed with all things deceased. Here is a man who is used to being surrounded by dead things.

The casting and skill in these pieces was remarkable. Look at this:

This is a full size sculpture/cast in bronze. The whole piece involves at least 7 bathtubs but only this one has the artist sitting in it fully clothed. And yes. Its real water in that bath. The sitting figure is meant to represent Fabre.

And how about this for cute (I'm sure Fabre would roll his eyes in disgust)..but using vertebrae
to represent little sea turtles marching across a sand of ground bones.

Now *this* is a sea turtle..........

This has to be the biggest bronze turtle I am ever to see in my life. And I want to ride it? Its off to the stars in the outer atmosphere and thats where *I* want to be.

And here lies a bronze lamb on a sacrificial bed of ground-up human bones.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Well here you are as promised...

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology (YouTube) and thanks also to Central News I can now share my TV appearances with you. Don't laugh. Central sent a car to pick up me and my children and as many canvases as I could carry, and take us to the Central News studio in Abingdon. Wow. Everyone was really lovely and James and Maddy were (for once) speechless in amazement at all the equipment and paraphanalia. What fun!! Alex who interviewed me was especially friendly and so professional!! How they manage it??- all that split second timing with looking at camera 3 with 10 seconds to go - is quite beyond me.

Later on the same day, a reporter (Ally) and cameraman arrived at my studio to carry on the story....including the story behind the story with my grandfather. Right up until the last minute, Maddy had insisted on wearing a viking helmet which is cleverly out of shot.

I wanted to share them with you...even if they do make me cringe in self-concious embarrassment.But a big thank you to everyone at Central for making myself and my kids so welcome and being such decent folk.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Out and about....

There is a museum in Nice which is pure Matisse. Its a mixture of modern and 18th Century villa.

I looked him up.

Henri Matisse was born in 1869, the year the Cutty Sark was launched. The year he died, 1954, the first hydrogen bomb exploded at Bikini Atoll. Not only did he live on, literally, from one world into another; he lived through some of the most traumatic political events in recorded history, the worst wars, the greatest slaughters, the most demented rivalries of ideology, without, it seems, turning a hair. Matisse never made a didactic painting or signed a manifesto, and there is scarcely one reference to a political event - let alone an expression of political opinion - to be found anywhere in his writings. Perhaps Matisse did suffer from fear and loathing like the rest of us, but there is no trace of them in his work. "His studio was a world within the world: a place of equilibrium that, for sixty continuous years, produced images of comfort, refuge, and balanced satisfaction. Nowhere in Matisse's work does one feel a trace of the alienation and conflict which modernism, the mirror of our century, has so often reflected. His paintings are the equivalent to that ideal place, scaled away from the assaults and erosions of history. "

In 1917 he moved, more or less permanently, to the South of France. "In order to paint my pictures," he remarked, "I need to remain for several days in the same state of mind, and I do not find this in any atmosphere but that of the Côte d'Azur." He found a vast apartment in a white Edwardian wedding cake above Nice, the Hótel Regina. This was the Great Indoors, whose elements appear in painting after painting: the wrought-iron balcony, the strip of blue Mediterranean sky, the palm, the shutters. Matisse once said that he wanted his art to have the effect of a good armchair on a tired businessman. In the 1960s, when we all believed art could still change the world, this seemed a limited aim, but in fact one can only admire Matisse's common sense. He, at least, was under no illusions about his audience. He knew that an educated bourgeoisie was the only audience advanced art could claim, and history has shown him right..."
("The Shock of the New", by Robert Hughes)

If you're interested in reading further about Matisse and looking at some of his work, a good place to start is the art encyclopedia online.

There is also a musuem dedicated to Chagall.
The Marc Chagall Biblical Museum nestles on the ancient hill of Cimiez in Nice, almost hidden by a garden of Mediterranean trees and plants. We gazed at the largest collection of Chagall’s works in any permanent collection, thanks to the artist himself, and his wife Valentina, who donated a large number of works to the State, including 17 large paintings on Biblical subjects, which gave the museum its name.
The museum also has two works specially created by Chagall to fit into the building: the stained glass windows in the concert room and the mosaic above the pond. Amazing.

There was a dear little self-portrait that caught my eye.

Quite un-pretentious and somehow sweet. It reminded me of my grandfather's drawing.

Of course, no trip to Nice would have been complete without what ended up being a whistle-stop tour of the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art.

This is one hell of a building. Everywhere you looked there were amazing scuptures, installations and staggering architecture.

This is a Calder.

Surrounded by art, you feel compelled to attempt 'arty' with your photography. I'm not sure I can pull it off so I'll stick to straightforward snapshots.....

This is an Arman. He fills spaces with chairs. You have to squint a bit to see them in this photo.

The staircase inside led all the way to the roof where you could step across walkways from one side of the building to the next. And you were treated to a fantastic view of Nice.

And just look at this....

Do you see the incongruous looking grey block on the left hand side? Its a library. Three sides are solid concrete and the fourth side hidden from view is glass.

I want to go back to this place.....we ran out of time and the security guards were kicking us out. I barely had time to go "oooh look, a Warhol" and "hey, isn't that a Klein?" and never mind the bits in between. I shall return one day I hope.

Well. Thats the culture bit done then. Now for shopping. And no ordinary shopping. We spent an afternoon being one of those that shopped in Cannes. Which in itself is a kind of art form since it appears to involve much sunglasses wearing, designer handbag toting, customised mercedes dodging, trying to look like someone famous-posturing scramble for something outrageously priced.

Ilona, Anya and myself headed off for the cheapy boutiques in the side streets. Many bargains to be found.

The french have such effortless style. Even the cheap shops were chic. Dunno how they manage it. Us Brits can't, thats for sure.

I love mooching about places like this. The side-alleys and unexpected little squares surrounded by intriguing little boutiques and bathed in sunshine.

Trying to find our way to the waterfront we stumbled across this: my attempts at photography don't really do this justice, but the side of the building is flat. The trees are very realistic don't you think? (Wink wink)

Back to Nice again on the way back from Cannes. Apparently, THE place to stay is the Negresco.

The Negresco is quite literally a palace. The owner has amassed an exceptional collection of paintings, antique furniture and rare object d’art that you can admire in the public rooms, guestrooms and corridors of the hotel. Five centuries of art and history rub shoulders: from the classical and historical paintings of the royal portraits in the Salon Louis XIV and Salon Royal to such contemporary artists as Moretti, Dali, and Nike de Saint-Phalle…

I liked the statue on the front lawn. I had to take this photo from across two pavements, a boardwalk, a cycle-cum-kamikaze roller-blading pathway and six lanes of very fast-moving french traffic.

Of course, no trip to the Cote d'Azur can be complete without the obligatory beach photos so here you are......

The time had come to rest some extremely weary feet. We found a little street, still in sunshine, and kicked off dusty flip-flops, sipped some ice-cold vin blanc and contemplated the hustle bustle passing us by. Thats better.